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The Biography of the Bible

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Azrael
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« on: July 18, 2009, 09:33:39 pm »

The Biography of the Bible
by Ernest Sutherland Bates
[1937]


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Azrael
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2009, 09:35:11 pm »

This is an narrative of the development of the Bible, from the earliest manuscripts to the 20th century. It includes the story of the translation of the Bible into English, the 'Higher Criticism' of the 19th century, and presents the Bible in historical and social context. This serves as a short but detailed introduction to the subject, well worth reading whatever one's views on the Bible.
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Azrael
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2009, 09:35:41 pm »

BIOGRAPHY OF THE BIBLE
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF ITS CHARACTER, AUTHORSHIP, TEXT, TRANSLATION AND INFLUENCE ON THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND
ERNEST SUTHERLAND BATES
Editor of
THE BIBLE DESIGNED TO BE READ AS LIVING LITERATURE
SIMON AND SCHUSTER NEW YORK
[1937]
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Azrael
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2009, 09:36:06 pm »

p. v
Table of Contents

I.
   

GENERAL CHARACTER
   

3

 
   

"The content of the Bible is Man."
Emphasis upon the average man and the social whole, realism in treatment, freedom in form.
   

 

 
   

 
   

 

II.
   

THE AUTHORS
   

11

 
   

"Anonymity, not personality, affords the clew to Biblical authorship."
Early folk literature; the traditional authors—Moses, David, Solomon; the Prophets; Postexilic literature—the legalists, the humanists, the nationalists; the Apocrypha; the Christian authors.
   

 

 
   

 
   

 

III.
   

CONFLICT OVER CREED AND CANON
   

59

 
   

"Blood as well as learning went into the establishment of creed and canon."
The Gnostics; the Manicheans; Arians and Athanasians; Homoousians and Homoiousians; The final victory.
   

 

 
   

 
   

 

IV.
   

THE BIBLE UNDER MEDIEVALISM
   

75

 
   

"For a thousand years the Bible held its place in a confused world wherein learning mingled with superstition, piety with persecution, love of beauty with hate and cruelty; and it was interpreted in accordance with all these attitudes."
The consecration to texts; scholastic methods of interpretation;
   

 

 
   

p. vi
   

 

 
   

the miracle plays; the war on infidels and heretics; the Biblical themes of art.
   

 

 
   

 
   

 

V.
   

THE GREAT TRANSLATIONS
   

99

 
   

"The great translations were part of a social revolution."
Early translations; Martin Luther; Tyndale and his successors; the King James version; typographical errors—''the Hee and She Bibles," "the Wicked Bible"; the Revised Version; eccentric and literal translations.
   

 

 
   

 
   

 

VI.
   

THE HIGHER CRITICISM
   

132

 
   

"There is no mystery about the so-called 'Higher Criticism'; it is simply the scientific combination of textual and historical criticism which is used today in the study of all early literature."
Hobbes and Spinoza; Jean Astruc; Eichhorn; De Wette; Strauss and Renan; the Tübingen School; more recent criticism.
   

 

 
   

 
   

 

VII.
   

THE BIBLE AND THE STREAM OF LIFE
   

150

 
   

"What was once a tributary, small, then mighty, which preserved its own hue amidst the larger stream, has now at last merged into the river, losing the isolation of its identity but giving something of its color to the whole."
The Bible and the Jews; the Bible and the world; the Bible in America; the present and the future.
   

 

p. vii
List of Illustrations

facing page Codex Vaticanus—The oldest complete manuscript of the New Testament (fourth century)
   

24

Codex Sinaiticus (fourth-century manuscript)
   

25

Codex Alexandrinus (fifth-century manuscript), sent by Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Alexandria, to King Charles I of England
   

40

Fourteenth-century manuscript of the Wyclif Bible
   

41

Characteristic page from the Gutenberg Bible (1450–55)
   

76

Title page of the Coverdale Bible (1535)
   

77

Title page of Tyndale's New Testament (1535)
   

84

Title page of the Matthew Bible (1537)
   

85

Title page of the Great Bible (1539)
   

104

Title page of the Douai Bible (1609)
   

105

Original woodcut title page of the King James version (1611)
   

120

Original engraved title page used at the beginning of the New Testament in the King James version
   

121

Perpetual Easter Calendar from the King James version
   

152

The generations of Adam in the King James version
   

153

The generations of Noah in the King James version
   

168

Title page of John Eliot's Indian Bible (1663)
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Azrael
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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2009, 09:36:57 pm »

p. 1p. 2 p. 3
ONE
General Character

A GREAT BOOK is a living organism. Months, years, or centuries may go into its gestation. When finally composed and written down, it can be said to be born, but only born. It then grows and develops through the interpretations of generation after generation of readers, critics, editors, and translators, each adding something, great or little, to its expanding magnitude.

The life of the Bible, above all other books, is a life made up of countless lives, embodying their joys and agonies, their visions, their defeats and aspirations. Four thousand years cling about it. A full millennium of myths and legends passed into it; another millennium was consumed in the writing; bitter battles over canon and creed occupied a third; a fourth has seen the ever-continuing translations into modern tongues.

No individual, no Caesar or Napoleon, has had such a part in the world's history as this book. Wars, reformations, martyrdoms, religions, lie heavy on its head; men fought and died over its meaning; down

p. 4
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Azrael
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2009, 09:37:25 pm »

through the ages it has continued to evolve, affecting for good and also for ill millions and millions of lives.

Not until the fourth century A.D. was it called the Bible. Saint John Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed, well deserved that sobriquet when he named the collection of Jewish and Christian sacred scriptures the Bible—one book, the Book. For in spite of the length of time consumed in its creation and in spite of the greatest diversity in the literary and moral value of the various parts, the unity of the Bible is its most compelling feature, so compelling that centuries after the original work was completed, when men of other races and languages sat down to translate the Bible, although they usually collaborated in large groups, nevertheless under the spell of the original they often found themselves writing as one man. This unusual and significant literary phenomenon appeared even in the Septuagint of the first translators, the legendary two and seventy Jewish elders of Alexandria who, according to the tale, in two and seventy days of the third century B.C. rendered the Old Testament into Greek. In all these cases, the quality of the translation sprang from the quality of the original.

When one asks, however, just wherein resides

p. 5
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Azrael
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2009, 09:37:42 pm »

this unity, so evident to sense that it has always been overemphasized rather than underemphasized, the answer is not easy. The older and still customary explanation that it consists in a definite type of religion maintained from first to last will not bear scrutiny. The religion of the earliest parts of the Old Testament is a tribal religion, strong and stern, intolerant, only half ethical and not even consistently monotheistic; the Prophets introduced nothing less than a religious and moral revolution; the later books of the Old Testament reveal the conflict between humanistic and nationalistic aspirations; and the coming of Christianity brought so great a change that the Jews themselves could not accept it. Yet all these varying attitudes are expressed fully and powerfully in the Bible.

Nor can one say with truth that the Bible is unified because it is always inspired by some religious viewpoint, however divergent the successive viewpoints may be. The collection of love lyrics known as the Song of Songs is purely secular, and the greater part of Ecclesiastes is a work of skeptical philosophy. Yet these are included, and one feels that the pattern is not broken.

The one enduring characteristic which does mark the Bible from first to last is a pronounced attitude

p. 6
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Azrael
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2009, 09:38:15 pm »

of mind that reveals itself in literary style and content.

The content of the Bible is Man. Alone among the ancient nations, the Jews accepted Man as the object of chief interest. Their religion, while in all its manifold forms preaching absolute submission to God, in another way made God himself subordinate to Man; where half of the Greek myths deal with the doings of the gods among themselves, gods who think only occasionally of the creatures of a day on earth, Jehovah is shown as making the destiny of Man his chief concern. Where the pagan gods are transparent personifications of natural phenomena gradually humanized, Jehovah is fundamentally Man himself gradually idealized to the height of human imaginings of good.

The content furthermore is Average Man. There are no Homeric heroes in the Bible. Abraham is brave and cowardly by turns, Jacob is loyal and a trickster, Joseph indulges in the vainglorious babblings of youth, the noblehearted David under the influence of lust will cause the murder of a devoted servitor, Solomon's wisdom cannot keep him from debauchery. As a result, where Agamemnon and Achilles and all the highborn heroes of Greek tragedy move us but aesthetically, our spirits are

p. 7
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« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2009, 09:38:27 pm »

touched simply and directly by our sorrowful twin brothers who acted so like ourselves centuries ago. We can find Abraham in the flesh on a Vermont farm, meet Jacob in the streets of New York, encounter Joseph in any gentle but pampered favorite child, and discover degenerate Solomons in night clubs from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast.

Finally, the content is Collective Man. Behind these sharply defined individuals, one is always conscious of their ancestors, and stretching before them one sees the long line of their descendants. A compensatory dignity accrues to the persons in the tale from their relation to the social whole. The group, the nation, and ultimately all mankind form a perpetual background against which the characters stand out the more plainly but into which they eventually merge and their relation to which constitutes the criterion of their conduct.

From this interest in the average man and the collective man springs the democratic and revolutionary character of the Bible. The constant admonitions to heed the poor, the widow, and the orphan; the diatribes against the corruptions of the court, the law, the men of power and wealth; the ever-repeated pleas for social justice; to the extent that these have entered into the thought of the

p. 8
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Azrael
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« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2009, 09:38:43 pm »

world we have in the first instance to thank the Bible.

The literary style of the Bible is in harmony with the unusual content. It is a style that moves effortlessly from the familiar to the sublime; from Job scratching himself among the potsherds to the same Job holding converse with God in the whirlwind. The Jews were the first realists.

Even the Jewish myths were localized and definite. Not only does the Ark of Noah come to rest upon Mount Ararat but its exact size is recorded—three hundred cubits by fifty by thirty. Abraham, visited by three angels, has water brought to wash their feet and tells his wife Sarah to "make ready three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth." In the Book of Tobit, Asmodeus, that wicked spirit, slayer of husbands, is put to flight by the homely ritual of raising a smoke from the heart and liver of a fish laid over smoldering ashes. Such precise vivid details lend verisimilitude to the most fantastic narratives. The persistence of the belief in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and in their complete inerrancy is largely due to the impression on the reader that he is hearing for the first time a story told by an eyewitness of the events recorded.

p. 9
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« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2009, 09:38:54 pm »

world we have in the first instance to thank the Bible.

The literary style of the Bible is in harmony with the unusual content. It is a style that moves effortlessly from the familiar to the sublime; from Job scratching himself among the potsherds to the same Job holding converse with God in the whirlwind. The Jews were the first realists.

Even the Jewish myths were localized and definite. Not only does the Ark of Noah come to rest upon Mount Ararat but its exact size is recorded—three hundred cubits by fifty by thirty. Abraham, visited by three angels, has water brought to wash their feet and tells his wife Sarah to "make ready three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth." In the Book of Tobit, Asmodeus, that wicked spirit, slayer of husbands, is put to flight by the homely ritual of raising a smoke from the heart and liver of a fish laid over smoldering ashes. Such precise vivid details lend verisimilitude to the most fantastic narratives. The persistence of the belief in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and in their complete inerrancy is largely due to the impression on the reader that he is hearing for the first time a story told by an eyewitness of the events recorded.

p. 9
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Azrael
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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2009, 09:39:06 pm »

violent transition. While as in other early poetry there is usually present a liturgical flavor of chanting that effectually sets the verse of the Bible apart from modern rhythms, the form undoubtedly suggested the poetic prose and free verse of Ossian, Blake, Carlyle, Ruskin, Walt Whitman, and other moderns.

Thus, both in content and in form, the greater part of the Bible when taken directly and not hardened into dogma, has been throughout history a freeing and liberalizing force. Unfortunately, freedom, obtainable only through law, is often lost through law. Much in the Bible itself proved a bondage to the Jews, and to this very day passages torn from their textual or historical context still furnish instruments to those who love to inflict or suffer bondage. Through its very closeness to life, the Bible has shared the fortunes of life. Its biography, like that of individuals and nations, is a tale of conflicting forces, and of struggles alike internal and external.
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Azrael
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2009, 09:39:31 pm »

p. 11
TWO
The Authors

THE BIBLE is a unique literary product. Literature normally springs from and reflects national glory in other fields of human endeavor that to a degree at least would be significant in themselves without the literature. The silent Medes still march their armies across the pages of history, and from voiceless Carthage the triremes still row out to battle; had the Greeks and Romans written no word of their own imperial conquests these would nevertheless have molded the ancient world. With the Hebrews, it was quite otherwise. Had there been no Jewish literature, the Jewish nation would have been long since forgotten. Their literature was not so much expression as a molding force which, Antaeuslike, grew stronger with every outward defeat.

The external facts in no wise justified the Hebrews’ belief in their own importance. Sober history first knows them as only one of the many nomadic groups that came out of the Arabian Desert in the centuries before 1000 B.C., vainly striving to

p. 12
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2009, 09:39:46 pm »

obtain possession of the richer coastland of Palestine then held by the Canaanites, a nation of Phoenician stock, and by those colonizing Cretans who appear in the Bible as the Philistines. Of the invaders, the Hebrews were, it is true, the most nearly successful, as at last, under their warrior king, David (about 990 B.C.), they did establish themselves in the hill country on the edge of the coastland. David's son, Solomon, contracted an advantageous alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre, and was even deemed worthy to wed with a daughter of the reigning Pharaoh of Egypt. But that was the high point of Hebrew political history. In the reign of Solomon's successor there came the disastrous division of his realm into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (the former with ten tribes, the latter with but two), both of which thenceforth existed precariously by favor of alliances with one or another of the more powerful neighboring nations. Such slight importance as was possessed by their tiny territory—the two kingdoms together measured only about one hundred miles in length by thirty or forty in breadth—resided solely in their lying across the trade routes from Egypt to the great empires of the East. In that position, they were exposed to constant attacks

p. 13
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2009, 09:40:02 pm »

and had enough ado merely to maintain their independence as long as possible. The kingdom of Israel was finally destroyed by Assyria in 722 B.C., that of Judah by Babylon in 586 B.C. Thereafter, the Hebrews ceased to exist as a political entity.

Had this been all their story, history today would reckon them among the most insignificant of ancient nations. They were important only because in their own minds they were important: precisely, indeed, because they refused to be refuted by the evidence of outward fact. Something within them told them they were a great nation in spite of everything. And they proved it, though not in the way that they intended, by their literature.

Behind history lies tradition, which may be called a kind of tribal memory, transmitted orally and growing by accretion from generation to generation. The Hebrews were not content with a nameless origin in the Arabian Desert: they claimed to have won their freedom from an earlier Egyptian bondage (which sober history, thus far, has neither been able to affirm conclusively nor to deny); and their legends went still further back to a period when they had inhabited the very land of Palestine they now desired to conquer—and even beyond that to a time when their ancestors had first come

p. 14
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